Frequently Asked Questions

What is pediatric chronic pain?

Chronic pain is typically defined as recurrent or persistent pain, frequently defined as lasting greater than 3 months or longer. In children and adolescents, chronic pain is often affected by multiple processes: biological influences, psychological factors, and sociocultural factors considered within a developmental trajectory.
Diagnoses and disorders seen in pain clinic include:

• Complex regional pain syndrome
• Low back pain
• Functional abdominal pain (FAP)
• Chronic daily headache
• Ehler-Danlos Syndrome (EDS)/hypermobility syndrome
• Fibromyalgia
• Atypical facial pain
• Chronic pelvic pain

What should I expect when I come to clinic?

At an initial evaluation appointment, patients and families can expect to see providers from multiple disciplines, undergo a thorough interview and physical examination, and receive feedback from the full pediatric chronic pain team. Based on the recommendations, patients may then follow up in outpatient clinic with one or multiple providers as part of their individualized treatment plans.

What can I do about my chronic pain?

There are many things that you can do to help with discomfort, and many of these are listed below. If you have any questions about these tips, please discuss them with your pain physician or psychologist. We are here to help!

Tips for everyday life

• Maintain good sleep hygiene (see sleep hygiene handout for tips). Getting restful sleep will help your body to recharge and rest for the day.
• Participate in physical activity, as directed by your child’s physician.
• Keep daily schedule structured and routine. Though school might be tough at first, it is a great place to allow yourself to continue seeing friends, learning, and allowing your mind to focus on things other than discomfort.

Do the things you enjoy

• Don’t be afraid to do the things you enjoy, especially if you have worked out a plan with your physician or physical therapist for not overdoing it. If you have any questions about participating in a specific activity, don’t hesitate to ask! A big goal of treatment is to help you figure out how to keep doing the things you love.
If discomfort comes along…
• Use your coping strategies!
o Relaxation
o Breathing exercises
o Progressive muscle relaxation
o Guided imagery
• Distraction and enjoyable or soothing activities
o Music
o Shower or bath
o Exercise
• Biofeedback
• Cognitive tools
• Hypnosis

How can parents help with chronic pain?

There are many ways that you can help with your child’s chronic discomfort. If you have questions about any of these tips, please discuss them with your pain physician or psychologist. Your involvement and response play a very important part in your child’s pain treatment. As your child’s pain management team, we support you in this process and are here to help!

Talking (or not talking) about pain

• Remember that all pain is real. Never refer to pain as being “all in your head” or something that is “made-up.”
• Avoid ongoing/frequent discussions of pain or asking about pain symptoms.

Responding to discomfort

• Encourage use of coping strategies.
• Acknowledge your child’s expressions of pain but do not make pain a focus of life.
• Do not allow your responses to be pain-contingent. Do not let pain be the deciding factor for the amount of attention your give your child, how lenient you are with him or her, or what kinds of privileges he or she gets.

Preventing and managing discomfort

• Maintain good sleep hygiene.
• Encourage physical activity, as directed by your child’s physician.
• Keep daily schedule structured and routine. Encourage school attendance, as cleared by your child’s physician.

What to expect

• Remember that overall improvement is first measured by improved functioning.
• Remember chronic pain can develop into a disease that can be modulated by using different strategies.
• Remember that self-care is important for both you and your child.